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ISSN: 1935-1232 (P)

ISSN: 1941-2010 (E)

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Abstract

Can Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Improve Cognitive Functioning in Adults with Schizophrenia?

Author(s): David J. Schretlen, Joseph J. van Steenburgh, , Mark Varvaris, Tracy D. Vannorsdall, Megan A. Andrejczuk, Barry Gordon

Cognitive impairment is nearly ubiquitous in schizophrenia. First-degree relatives of persons with schizophrenia often show similar but milder deficits. Current methods for the treatment of schizophrenia are often ineffective in cognitive remediation. Since transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can enhance cognitive functioning in healthy adults, it might provide a viable option to enhance cognition in schizophrenia. We sought to explore whether tDCS can be tolerated by persons with schizophrenia and potentially improve their cognitive functioning. We examined the effects of anodal versus cathodal tDCS on working memory and other cognitive tasks in five outpatients with schizophrenia and six first-degree relatives of persons with schizophrenia. Each participant completed tasks thought to be mediated by the prefrontal cortex during two 30-minute sessions of tDCS to the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Anodal stimulation over the left DLPFC improved performance relative to cathodal stimulation on measures of working memory and aspects of verbal fluency relevant to word retrieval. The patient group showed differential changes in novel design production without alteration of overall productivity, suggesting that tDCS might be capable of altering self-monitoring and executive control. All participants tolerated tDCS well. None withdrew from the study or experienced any adverse reaction. We conclude that adults with schizophrenia can tolerate tDCS while engaging in cognitive tasks and that tDCS can alter their performance.